Why the prevalence of dating in the US?

Perhaps I’m wrong but I’ve gotten the impression that in the US, it’s usual for to date multiple people at the same time, sometimes for extended periods.

As polar bear said in another thread: “I don’t really ‘date’ other women, put then again nobody does here in the Netherlands. All my relationships (and those of everyone I know) started with a jump from being single to being a couple in a matter of weeks (days?).” I’ve observed the same thing in Canada.

I also remember a British website warning Americans that when Britons date someone, they expect exclusivity as a matter of course.

I was also quite surprised when a poster here (can’t remember the name) said that she had dated around 100 people. 100 just seems ridiculously high based on people I know but she said it as if it weren’t anything special.
So, how does the institution of dating function in the US and why does it operate that way?

Honestly, it depends entirely on your circle of friends. Among me and mine, dating multiple people while you attempt to whittle down the list to one person just isn’t done. If you date one person, it’s assumed it’s exclusive until you “break up,” whether that’s one date or 100. Among other people, we’re seen as weird and old-fashioned.

That said, I still think dating with the assumption of exclusivity is how the majority of American dates work and the “player” dating style is still an anomaly.

Agreed. However, I think it’s a style of dating that is common in the TV/movie world because it works well for plots. It’s also treated as the “normal” model in the magazine world: womens’ magazines always seem to assume their readers are on this model, perhaps because it sounds sophisticated. I have this whole theory that magazines are ostensibly aimed at an entirely fictional, idealized audience so that their real audience can feel like they are part of that world by reading the magazine.

I don’t know that I’ve ever been on a “date”, nor have most of my friends: it usually went from “hanging out” to “going out” to “broken up”, with possibly a few pit stops in “it’s complicated” along the way.

The only exception I can think of to this are people who do a lot of on-line dating, which is itself a fairly new development. On-line dating really encourages a scatter-shot approach. Older professionals may also date like this, because social group hanging out drops away as your friends start to marry off, and there’s not a lot of social hanging out time to get to know new people. But even in those cases, I think the leap from dating to exclusivity happens pretty quickly. It’s not common to casually date a circle of people for months or years.

Here is my take on it. I grew up in the 40s and 50s and teen-agers dated multiple people. My mother was aghast. She couldn’t understand this because in her day kids went out in groups. In my children’s generation, the social scene was back to going out in groups. The pendulum swings and probably will never stop.

Keep in mind polar bear also has made a hobby out of frequenting brothels. His perspective on dating might not be exactly “mainstream”.

Also TV and movies have to deal with the same cast every episode season after season. So there is a tendency for them to date within the circle more than one might find IRL.

Starting in the 90s, TV shows like 90210, Friends, Seinfeld, Sex And The City and nearly every other sitcom up to current shows like How I Met Your Mother introduced a number of dating styles:

The Player / Playboy: Think Barney from HIMYM, Samantha from SATC or Joey from Friends. He/she’s the fun-loving party guy/girl who makes no pretense of monogamy. Always has at least a couple sexual partners on the hook and are looking out for more. The consumate “confirmed bachelor/bachelorette”.

The Serial Dater: Usually well intentioned and just looking to find the “right one”. Unfortunately due to commitment issues or some other character flaw they have an inability to have a relationship that lasts more than a few dates.

The On-Again / Off-Again: These are two people who will date for years and years. They will break up, get back together, marry other people but then end up in an affair with each other. Ross and Rachel from Friends or Carrie and Big from SATC are examples of this.

The Stalled Relationship: This is the monogamous couple that dates forever without “going to the next level” (ie marriage and kids).

In reality, I think most people would rather find one person than date sitcom style. I’ve found that in college or in their 20s, people will date around alot or have a lot of random hookups. But eventually, even in NYC, most people seem to eventually settle down and get married or into some other sort of long-term relationship eventually.

Ah. I was assuming that the OP was not counting random hookups as “dates”. It is certainly fairly common, or at least not unheard of, for college and slightly older types to end up making out/having sex with people before they are officially in a relationship, and sometimes on a fairly brief acquaintanceship. I thought that by “dating” the OP meant “make formal plans to go out and have dinner and perhaps see a movie or play”. The former is, honestly, much more common than the later–in fact, the transition from “just friends” to “going out” (i.e., being in an official relationship) is usually marked by making out or having sex. I know plenty of marriages that started out as hook-ups. And I’ve known plenty of people who bounced from random hookup to random hookup–in some social circles, that’s pretty common. And I’ve known people who were playing kissy-face with a couple different people at the same time for a few weeks while they made up their mind.

What I’ve hardly ever, if ever, seen, is someone who has formal dinner dates with a variety of different people most every weekend for an extended period of time as the main format/structure of their social life.That’s the sit-com/Cosmo style dating that I thought the OP was asking about. (I have know people who used an internet dating service and went on multiple dates for a time, but even then they tended to be looking for a long-term relationship and the dates were specifically to get to know someone, not an end in themselves.)

Just to add an outlier position (I’m guessing others like me wouldn’t be likely to post in a thread like this) I don’t date.

I think the proportion of people in the U.S. who date or hook up with or have affairs with or have any other sort of temporary relationship with a number of people that they consider possible sexual partners is much smaller than you might expect. I consider this to be one more example of how much American TV shows and movies are utter lies. Yeah, there are people who aren’t interested in any permanent relationships, but it’s not that large a proportion. Most Americans are in stable relationships. They are married or living with someone or in a relationship which hasn’t yet reached the point where they move in together. Most of the ones who aren’t in a relationship aren’t dating numerous people. They often aren’t dating at all. Usually they don’t date a large number of people before finding a new relationship. Having a wide variety of sexual relationships may make for good drama, but it’s not typical at all.

Reason Number 1 thru 1,000,000: Americans - at least nice middle-class White ones - live the life of the marketplace. Anything important in life eventually comes down to status and competition.

There’s not much difference between a typical first date and a job interview. Measure up, impress the “client,” offer the best package, and always keep your options open for the chance to trade up.

Sex? It’s like coffee: it’s for closers.

I’ve recently started “dating,” and besides feeling a bit 1970s, it’s actually not a bad way to go about things.

Previously I’d do the scattershot thing- go out with or hook up with a guy and now and then it’d turn into a relationship. I never had too many guys I was interested in at any given time, and if I happened to be single I’d just look around until I found something. Like most young people, I kind of drifted in and out of relationships.

Now I’m online dating, and lining up multiple dates in a weekend. I’m finding it has a lot of advantages:
[li]You avoid being awkward and uncomfortable during that early dating period where you haven’t quite worked out how often you are going to see each other. If one guy isn’t around, another is, so you don’t really worry about it if a guy doesn’t make plans with you on a given weekend- if you don’t make plans with my on Friday night, I’m not hurt. I’ll just make plans with someone else. The added advantage is that you end up more secure and confident, which makes you more attractive. [/li][li]You can better manage your sexuality without having to give up sex. For example, you may have one partner who you would like to develop a more serious relationship with, and that can be hurt by turning every date into a sex date early in the relationship- which is where it usually ends up if you aren’t getting much sex. So you have a sex date with someone else, get your fill, and go into your serious date with a clear head. [/li][li]You can still have fun with guys who are not LTR material. If you are starting to get ready to settle down, you start looking a bit more systematically, and that means not wasting a lot of energy on guys who are not LTR material. If you are exclusive, that means you basically can’t hang out with these guys and dating becomes all about finding “the one,” which is not fun and tends to backfire. When you are dating, “fun” guys still have their place, and you aren’t really hurting your chances of getting into the LTR you’d like by seeing them. [/li][li]It’s fun. You get to meet lots of people and do all kinds of different things. I’ve been introduced to all kinds of new activities and places. [/li][/ol]

You’re fucking up my paradigm. :wink: Are you still overseas or are you doing your thing in the US now? How do you feel about dating as a status dance? Does hooking up change the game?

In the US.

Honestly, “dating as a status dance” sounds like sour grapes to me. Of course we are all looking for a partner who have traits we find desirable. What is the alternative? Dating out of charity? Dating “the most deserving” over the one who really does it for us? Some of us value some things more than others- some men seek out trophy wives, and some women are gold diggers. I think the majority of us also look for companionship and caring as well as more typical “status” traits like wealth and attractiveness.

First dates are like job interviews for some people. For others, they aren’t. If your primary goal is to get married in the near future, you probably use the first date to screen out the deal breakers and assess potential. If you are more about having fun at this point in your life, you probably use first dates as a chance to do some fun activity with a partner- more like a friendship. If you are in it for sex, you probably have a lot of first date sex. Personally, I prefer first dates where I do something that is fun on it’s own, and has the auxiliary benefit of giving you a chance to get know someone. But other people, for whatever reason, actively prefer the awkward introductory “let’s meet for coffee.”

I don’t think hooking up changes much. Done right, it’s sex for sex’s sake and doesn’t have a lot to do with relationships. Done wrong, it’s a kind of shallow and probably asymmetrical sexual relationship, which is something that has always existed.

Anyway, I think dating is good for women. I think that we tend to over-invest early in a relationship, and that make us spend a lot of time being (and looking) insecure. I think guys tend to keep their options mentally open until they see if they are going fall for a women, whereas women tend to close their options until they see if they are going to fall for a man. Dating puts us on more even ground.

I think it also takes a lot of the anguish out of things- when you invest early in one relationship, the only good outcome becomes “we get married and live happily ever after” and everything short of that feels like a failure- not surprisingly, relationships feel like a long series of failure. If you are dating multiple people, the range of good outcomes gets wider- it might be a good relationship if you guys go see a fun movie and it’s a fun night, or hook up a few times before parting ways, or you end up becoming good friends. Dating becomes a string of interesting experiences, rather than just failure after failure.

If you are treating dates like job interviews, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are single. :wink:

Really, dating seems more like this.

No one I know dates several people at the same time, unless they’re doing online dating and hence going meeting a bunch of new people and maybe going on some second dates.

I think it really varies a lot by social group and their ideas of how relationships work. Among my friends and I people don’t seem to do concurrent dating. I met my fiancee online and I was talking to other women at the same time as her, but once our first couple of dates went well I stopped talking to them.

I’m an American, and I have to agree with this. It’s just really not standard operating procedure to be romantically involved with several different people at the same time (no orgy jokes please). At least not openly. People still have affairs and what not.

It of course varies a lot by social group and individual. This isn’t the first thread asking this question.

The general conclusion of that thread was that while it can vary a lot, romantic relationships seem to work fairly similarly in the US and the UK.

Wow, that kind of sucks for the guy you want to get serious with.

Most guys don’t like being treated like a chump where they get stuck doing all the crappy relationshippy stuff while some other guy hits that. Usually it amounts to stringing some guy along because he seems “safe” or he has money or something and you know you can always go back to him while you are having your fun hooking up with random dudes.

I guess women think it makes them seek all “liberated” or whatever, but ultimately it just comes across as flakey. Why would you be having sex with other people if you really wanted to get “serious” with someone?
One complaint I constantly hear from people who are constantly single is that they can’t find someone to get “serious” with. Part of the problem IMHO is that they usually meet people in a way that usually doesn’t lend itself to a serious relationship. You don’t often hear people tell stories about how they met 5 years ago at Jello shots night at McO’Nielahans.

I was going to make a joke here, but it was too easy. :smiley:

I don’t think he would, but my assumption when I meet someone under age 40 who claims to have been in dozens of relationships is that they’re like a group of classmates I had, who counted the following as a boyfriend:

meet on Sunday. Dance the two slow songs played midway through the program at the teen dance hall. Decide they’re gf/bf. Not see each other for the whole week. Meet again on Saturday. Dance the two slows. During the second slow, start having a fight. Break up.

Most of us wouldn’t even have counted those as “hook-ups” (they hadn’t kissed, hadn’t made out, didn’t even know what was the other one studying or often in what school), but those girls did.